I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Movie Reviews by Ry!

I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Formula in a Song: Whitney … You Can Sing

We look at life through a lens of innocence, seeking growth through the outside world.  As we become someone … we hope that are stories are remembered.  In the medium of film, watching life unfold can bring about many emotions.  For better or worse, these biopics capture those moments with dramatic effect, creating stories that can be remembered forever.  In this review, I look at a biopic that captures the life of Whitney Houston.  In this tale, we witness the icon being born within predictable aspects of the genre.  Even within a formula, I Wanna Dance with Somebody has enough moments to show how Houston became … an icon.

This is a story about the life of Whitney Houston (Naomi Ackie).  From humble beginnings to the top of the music world, it is a tale that shows how she became the icon of her generation.  On the surface, this film is built on the typical biopic outline.  You have a general introduction to the main character (and background), an inciting incident of recognition which leads into a series of scenes showcasing the highs and lows of the journey.  Through the drop-in method, we watch Whitney in her early days, struggling to find her place while living in the shadow of her mother, Cissy Houston (Tamara Tunie).  Through some convenient plot devices, she gets her chance when Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci), watches one of her local performances.  After getting signed to a record deal, the film quickly moves through a montage of musical moments, showcasing the most poignant aspects in her illustrious career.  Here, the audience witnesses the strength of the formula when the spotlight is put on the artistry and dynamism of the main character.  Within this film, the spotlight brings out a certain reverie of personal connections to the creation of an iconic singer.  The dynamic between Davis and Houston is driven by the performances of Tucci and Ackie, creating subtle gravitas that parallels her most memorable songs and performances.  To capture the ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspect of her artistry is poignant but surreal, a dramatized effect that brings about emotions that are ironically wholesome.  For all these great moments (in the music), the other aspect of the formula weighs down the overall experience, leading to some fragmented portion in the storytelling.

With any biopic, there is a fine thread of ‘capturing the moment’ without being too melodramatic.  For all the great ‘highlights’ of Whitney Houston’s career, there is the familial/relationship side.  The strong characterization is drowned by these underdeveloped conflicts, turning certain characters into one-dimensional archetypes.  This leaves long stretches of hollow and unemotional scenes, creating plot fodder between the great musical moments.  Even as the journey gets lost in the fray, the filmmakers turn the tide in the third act by refocusing back on the music.  This leads to a memorable climax, showing how Whitney Houston became the icon.  I Wanna Dance with Somebody is a biopic that could have been legendary.  For all the underdeveloped moments, the great aspect of her career still shines strong.  If you are a fan of biopics, Whitney Houston or want to experience great songs, this is one for you.  For all its faults, you can still have fun seeing this in theaters.

Full Score – 3 out of 5 (Theater Discount)

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